The last five weeks have seen basketball fans from all over the world tune into to Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance documentary for a recollection of events from Jordan’s iconic career and famed-history.
However, last night, the 10-part docuseries came to an end with its finale; episodes 9 and 10.
The Last Dance, from the start, has been airing out the behind the scenes details of the Bulls Dynasty, with interviews from players and members of the Chicago Bulls organization recalling the historical events of Jordan’s last seasons with the legendary team.
Last night’s final round-up episode of the ESPN & Netflix production went into detail about the team’s six championships, by way of two three-peats, Jordan’s “flu game,” Phil Jackson’s ritual, Steve Kerr’s life, and early career and Dennis Rodman’s decision to skip finals practice for a WWE match.
The Bulls were an unstoppable force in the 90s. What made the six championship-feat even more special was that the organization did it back to back in the form of a 3-peat, two different times.
The Bulls earned their six championship rings in 1991 against the Los Angeles Lakers, 1992 against Portland Trail Blazers, 1993 against the Phoenix Suns, 1996 against the Seattle SuperSonics, and 1997 & 1998 against the Utah Jazz.
However, their reign came to an end as the team began to disband with the most crucial of the team leaving. Many fans believed, had they stayed together, they could have gone on to secure a seventh title.
“I wanted to win championships with these guys,” Rodman said on ESPN’s First Take recently. “I would go to war with these guys any time of the day. It was just sad in the fact that we could have come back and won a fourth championship very easily.”
“He had shown that no matter how sick he was, he’s still the best player in the world,” Pippen said of Jordan.
Throughout the entire series, the doc detailed Jordan’s will power and determination to win.
During the 1997 Finals, Jordan pushed through while suffering from flu symptoms during Game 5, helping bring the Bulls another victory. This game went on to be remembered as the “Flu Game.”
Jordan showed that not even an illness could stop his performance as he gave his all on the court as he did in all his games. During that game, Jordan scored 38 points despite the circumstances.
However, according to Jordan’s trainer at that time, Tim Grover says the baller’s sickness wasn’t really the flu, but likely due to food poisoning.
“One hundred percent it was food poisoning, 100 percent,” Grover, said in an interview on the ‘Pardon My Take’ podcast. “But obviously it just sounds better to be the ‘Flu Game’ than the ‘Food Poisoning Game.’”
Grover had also recalled the night before Game 5, when a group of 5 individuals delivered a pizza to Jordan, which he ordered due to it being late at night and most restaurants being closed.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Grover recalled.
Being that they had been staying in the same hotel in Park City, Utah, for the duration of the finals, the word spread about the room Jordan was staying in.
“By then, everybody knew what room Michael was in, because we had already been there for a while,” Grover stated.
Despite Grover’s concerns, Jordan still insisted on eating the pizza.
Though there were several people in the hotel room, Jordan was the only one who took part in eating the pizza.
Though he seemed fine, at around 3 A.M., Grover was called to Jordan’s room, where he saw his client, “literally curled up in the fetal position.”
“I’ve not known any flu that can hit you that fast, but I know how quickly food poisoning can hit you,” Grover recalled.
Grover then remembred advising Jordan to throw up and “hydrate as much as possible.”
“Just get me standing. I will do the rest,” Jordan said, at the time, to his trainer.
Grover also gave Jordan some advice prior to Game 5, stating, “If you’re going to play, you gotta keep going. …The worst thing that could happen is that you come out and rest for a long period of time.”
“That was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Jordan said, following the interesting experience. “I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game.”
“I was scared,” Jordan recalled again of the experience in an interview with ESPN in 2004. “I didn’t know what was happening to me. …I felt partially paralyzed.”
Many rumors began to swirl following the game that opposed to being sick, Jordan was, in fact, hungover and should be known as the “Hungover Game.” However, Grover turned down that conspiracy in a 2013 interview.⠀⠀⠀⠀
“I was with him 24/7 during the whole thing, and we were definitely not going out, definitely not partying,” Grover declared. “You work too hard to get that close, [where] only one team wins the championship, and Michael being the ultimate competitor, he’s never gonna put him in a situation where he can’t achieve the goal.”
The Bulls beat the Jazz by two points that game, bringing the total to 90-88. The Bulls went on to win the series.
Golden State Warriors head coach and former Bulls player/ Jordan’s teammate, Steve Kerr, insisted that if something similar were to happen in today’s climate, there’s no way an ill player would move forward and play in a game.
“We’re not taking that chance today,” Kerr recently said the “Runnin’ Plays” podcast. “I guarantee you that. If that happened with Steph [Curry] or Klay [Thompson] or any of our players, no way we’re dealing with that… [Jordan] had an IV at the shoot-around. ….We were at a high school in Park City, 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake, for that Finals game, and …he could barely move.”
The miniseries also went on to discuss Steven Kerr’s journey in depth.
Kerr revealed that he didn’t have it easy in the NBA.
“I had to fight and scrap and claw for everything I got in the NBA,” Kerr said. “And that was just enough to make it.”
Coming out of college, though Kerr didn’t receive a lot of offers from colleges to play the sport he loved, he did receive an offer from Arizona at the last minute.
However, while there, late one night, he received a call that his father had been murdered in Beirut, Lebanon, where he was President of American University in Beirut.
“My phone rang in my dorm at 3:00 in the morning,” Kerr stated. “So, I knew something was up. He just said, ‘Steve, I have terrible news.'”
According to Kerr’s mother, Ann, this tragedy pushed him to go even harder when it came to basketball.
“Steve reacted by throwing himself more deeply into basketball,” Ann said.
All of Kerr’s hard work paid off. In the final game of the 1997 NBA Finals, Kerr helped make the game-winning play in the final seconds of the game after Jordan told him to “be ready.”
“If they’re gonna double-team me, Steve’s gonna be open,” Jordan said.
Kerr indeed was open, taking the shot and bring the score to 88-86. The game finished with the Bulls defeating the Jazz, 90-86.
“Tonight, Steve Kerr earned his wings,” Jordan during the post-game conference. “And I’m very happy for Steve.”
Another major highlight from the series was Phil Jackson’s final ritual to close out the season following the 1998 championship title.
Marking their 6th championship title, the players, coaches, and members of the organization knew their time together was coming to an end as they all wouldn’t be returning for a 7th chance to take home the trophy. So coach Jackson called one final meeting for the team.
“My wife had gotten her Master’s in Social Work, and she was part of a group that went in to help people that were grieving,” Jackson explained during the closing moments of ‘The Last Dance.’ “One of the things they did was a ritual where they kind of put things to rest.”
“He says, ‘This is it. This is the last dance. This is the last time we’re ever going to be together,'” Kerr added. “He told everybody to bring in anything you want to write about what the team means to you.”
Jackson encouraged the players to each write down what the team meant to them and to share it out loud with everyone else and to then put the paper in a coffee can.
“And every guy had emotional words to say,” Kerr stated. “And I remember [Jordan] actually wrote a poem.”
What Jordan wrote, shocked Jackson who had just spent 11 seasons with the NBA legend.
“It was a depth of emotion you never thought he had,” Jackson continued.
“Phil had the knack, no matter how big you are, no matter how big you think you are, to always draw you in to be part of the process,” Jordan said. “I’m not a poet, but I just spoke what I felt at the time. We’re always going to be bonded. Said thanks for the past, enjoy the moment, let’s make sure we end it right.”
Jordan’s words also caused Kerr, who he’d had a rocky relationship with (in 1995, the two players were involved in a physical altercation during a practice scrimmage), to rethink his feeling towards him.
“We saw him as this bully sometimes,” Kerr explained. “But that day, he showed his compassion, his empathy for all of us. Then everybody put the paper in the can, and at the end of the session, Phil turned out the lights, and he lit the paper in the can. One of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen.”
The documentary also touched on Rodman’s short stint in WCW.
During the 1998 finals series, Rodman missed practice, hopped on a private jet to Michigan, where he would appear in a taping of ‘WCW Nitro’ with Hulk Hogan.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything,” Rodman said of his decision to make a WCW appearance during the 1998 Finals. “I was just trying to play basketball, party, da, da, da, da. Fu*k all the girls. Just be me. Dennis sh*t, you know.”
The team wasn’t hurt in any way by Rodman leaving as they still won the series. Rodman believed that Jackson and the team understood, he needed to be free and be himself, because he always gave 100% on the court.
“I think Phil realized that I needed to always do me, just go do what I do. They’re gonna get 100% when I’m on the court,” Rodman said.
Leaving wasn’t all fun and games for Rodman as he was, however, charged $20,000 for missing a media session a day prior to Game 4 of the 1998 Finals season.
Although he was fined by the association, he was paid $250,000 for his WCW appearance, making it worthwhile in the end.
“I think that makes him a good businessman,” Rodman’s former teammate Ron Harper said upon his return.
The Bulls went on to win the 1998 Finals Series in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz on June 14, bringing the completion to a legendary season as ‘The Last Dance.’
Dennis Rodman skipped a media session the day before Game 4 of the 98 NBA Finals and was fined $20,000.
He instead was paid $250,000, plus use of a private jet, to appear at a WCW show.
When he returned, his teammate Ron Harper said "I think that makes him a good businessman." pic.twitter.com/fK1hxZaQcH
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 18, 2020